Within a few days of Iran signing the interim deal with the sextet (US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany), there have been quick moves by Tehran to approach its Persian Gulf neighbors. These regimes have also realized that change is coming and it would be in their interest to mend fences with Tehran. The speed with which the moves are occurring is quite astonishing.
December 03, 2013, 18:33 EST
As Iran was about to sign the historic interim deal over its nuclear program with the P5+1 group of countries in Geneva on November 24, Iranian diplomats were on the move meeting their counterparts in the region. Visits to Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Kuwait were arranged.
On November 28, the UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed was warmly received in Tehran. He met his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif as well as President Hassan Rohani. The UAE foreign minister told Zarif that Iran is not only a neighbour but it should be a partner of the UAE. He proposed greater economic cooperation between the two countries through a formal mechanism.
Iran has signalled a “new page” in its relations with all its neighbours. This has been eagerly taken up by most rulers in the region aware that there is a new environment in the wake of the Iran-West nuclear deal.
Two days later, Zarif was on a tour of Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. With Oman, Iran has very cordial relations and there is speculation that it served as a meeting point for Iranian and American diplomats for quiet diplomacy prior to the New York meeting between Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry at the end of September. Further, their differences were ironed out behind the scenes prior to arriving at the interim deal in Geneva.
Even Bahrain has realized that it must mend fences with Iran and has extended an invitation to Tehran to attend the Dialogue Summit in Manama later this month. Tehran has welcomed the move and Iran’s deputy foreign minister will attend.
During his visit to neighbouring countries in the Persian Gulf, Zarif said he wanted to visit Saudi Arabia as well and would do so at a mutually agreed date. He said Saudi Arabia was an important player and better relations between Tehran and Riyadh would lead to stability in the region.
When Iran signed the interim deal in Geneva, Saudi Arabia called an urgent meeting of members of the Gulf Cooperation Council to consider the new developments. It was clear from Saudi press reports that Riyadh was unhappy with the direction of the wind blowing in the region. However, it seems to have reconciled to the unstoppable momentum towards change.
As it has become clear that Iran’s rights have finally been recognized by the West as well as its position as the most important regional power, other powers in the region are lining up to mend their fences with Tehran as well.
Iran has always wanted friendly relations with its neighbours. Unfortunately, these relations were soured in the past as a result of negative influence of the US and the hostile attitude of some of the Arab countries.
Recent developments have forced these governments to adjust their policies vis-à-vis Iran. Today, Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif is in Abu Dhabi meeting the ruler, Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayed, Prime Minister Mohammed Rashid al-Maktoom as well as his UAE counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed.
Interestingly, Iran and its neighbours face the same threats of extremism and terrorism and they would do well to confront them together. Iran has proposed a 10-point plan for Regional Cooperation System in the Persian Gulf to ensure stability and collective security.